Botswana to Electrify SADC Region

Phathisani Moyo

Gaborone, Botswana - Aug 2007

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With positive reports that Botswana will begin construction of the multi billion dollar Mmamabula Energy Project (MEP) in February next year incessant electric power cuts are set be a thing of the past in the SADC region.

Strategic partners have announced that negotiations with possible lenders for the ambitious energy project are progressing well. The two partners in the green field project, CIC Energy Corp and International Power Plc, would develop Phase One of the project at an estimated cost of $6 billion or P37 billion.

MEP is expected to take four years to complete Phase One. It is anticipated that the power station will commence commercial operations by the first quarter of 2012. It is a scheme to build a coal mine and power station close to Botswana’s border with South Africa. The Mmamabula site is estimated to contain over a billion tons of recoverable coal deposits which would be able to support a 4800 megawatt power plant for a 40 year period.

With most of southern Africa still without electricity and many urban areas even in the regions powerhouse ‘South Africa’ experiencing frequent power cuts, the development is being hailed as an answer to the regions perennial power shortages.

Botswana, which presently imports most of its electricity from neighbouring South Africa, is under increasing pressure to find alternative sources to meet its domestic demand after indications that South Africa could soon be forced to reduce the quota it exports to the diamond rich country so as to cater for its own growing domestic requirements.

The anticipated impact on the rural population located around the Mmamabula project has created a lot of excitement in Botswana. The development looks set to change the country’s economic and social outlook, especially within small villages in the Central District, which are likely to blossom into urban centres. ‘CIC Energy’ Chief Executive Officer, Mr Gregory Kinross is quoted in the government press saying local communities have been consulted about the opportunities presented by the project including employment and secondary opportunities.

Phase One is expected to create 6000 jobs during the construction stage and when the US$6 billion investment figure into the project is taken into account, the MEP would easily become Botswana’s major project in terms of capital and human resources. Over 1300 jobs are expected to be permanently available once the project is operational.

Kinross has emphasized that employment of Batswana will be priority for the MEP and training will be provided for locals to develop the skills needed to operate and maintain a world-class power plant and coal mine. In addition to the mine and power plant, there will be need for infrastructure development, provision of educational and health facilities, housing and an airstrip in the rural dwelling of Mmamabula. These things would be inconceivable without the discovery of the huge coal deposits that have laid the foundation for this ambitious project.

The deposits in the eastern part of Mmamabula alone are enough to last 40 years without mining the equally coal rich Mmamabula South. Enough coal could be stockpiled to efficiently service the Power Plant for at least 23 years from when it begins operation in 2012 when Phase One of the project is expected to be completed.